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Torture case trio await ruling

Four Britons who were blocked by UK courts from suing foreign officials who allegedly tortured them while they were held in Saudi Arabian jails will find out this week if European judges regard the refusal as a breach of human rights.

Ronald Jones, Alexander Mitchell, William Sampson and Leslie Walker claim they were subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation and anal rape as well as being given mind-altering drugs following their arrest in 2000 in Saudi Arabia's capital city, Riyadh.

Mr Mitchell, Mr Walker and Mr Sampson were arrested after a series of terrorist bombings in Riyadh and Khobar, eastern Saudi Arabia, and claimed they were tortured into admitting responsibility. Mr Jones, was seized after being injured in a bomb blast outside a bookshop.

The case was taken to the European Court of Human Rights, which will hand down its judgement on Tuesday, over concerns the refusal of UK courts to allow the men to sue Saudi Arabia or its officials for compensation breached article six of the European Convention on Human Rights - access to court.

In 2002, Mr Jones brought proceedings against Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Interior and the man who he alleges tortured him, claiming damages for torture. His application was struck out in February 2003 on the grounds that Saudi Arabia and its officials were entitled to state immunity.

A claim by Mr Mitchell, Mr Sampson and Mr Walker against the four individuals that they considered to be responsible for their torture was struck out for the same reason in February 2004.

The applicants appealed against the decisions, and their cases were joined. In October 2004 the Court of Appeal unanimously found that, though Mr Jones could not sue the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself, the applicants could pursue their cases against the individual named defendants.

However, this decision was overturned in June 2006 by the House of Lords, which held that the applicants could not pursue any of their claims on the ground that all the defendants were also entitled to state immunity.

The British men were all released after an al Qaida attack in May 2003 by nine suicide bombers in Riyadh, which disproved official Saudi claims that the attacks were the result of an alcohol turf war among Westerners.

The Law Lords were told in 2006 that it was the first time th e House of Lords had looked at the issue of whether a foreign country could claim state immunity over civil proceedings brought against its officials for damages for personal injuries caused by alleged torture.


From Belfast Telegraph